Since spring 2022, New York City has seen more than 100,000 people arrive seeking asylum. Because our current immigration system has been gridlocked by Republican xenophobia and inaction for more than a decade, this has forced localities to try their best to come up with legal solutions. Big Apple Mayor Eric Adams recently announced a deal with the federal government to lease Floyd Bennett Field, a former Navy airfield, and use it for emergency shelter for many of the asylum-seekers.
Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York brought Republican City Council Member Joann Ariola and conservative Democratic Assemblywoman Jaime Williams to Washington, D.C., to air their grievances over the federally controlled site being used for such humanitarian purposes. The political-stunt nature of another conservative hearing was not lost on fellow New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In a video posted by The Majority Report, Ocasio-Cortez asked Ariola, “Are you aware that seeking asylum is a lawful immigration process?” Ariola, in a piss-poor attempt at being clever, responded, “When it has been deemed to be asylum. It has not yet been deemed to be asylum-seekers [sic]”
Ocasio-Cortez quickly shut her down. “Are you aware that [the] application you have to arrive in the United States in order to apply for asylum?” Ariola had to agree to that real bit of logic. “Great,” AOC said. “So arrival is also part of that lawful process.”
The New York congresswoman then gave a most eloquent speech that broke down how unproductive and pointless this Republican-created exercise was.
She detailed the solutions that Democrats are offering in the face of conservative hand-wringing and opposition to even approaching a solution. Ocasio-Cortez grilled the Democratic assemblywoman who teamed up with the Republicans, too. “I didn't hear in your testimony the alternative sites you've advocated for. Could you remind me of which those are?” After getting Williams to admit she had nothing but a grievance, AOC responded: “No solutions here. No ideas here.”
Then she swept the floor of the hearing room with Republicans, their governing impotence, and their waste of subcommittee hearings: “All I'm hearing right now is that we're not being met in the middle. No support, no path to citizenship, no identified alternatives. Just grievances.”
I'd like to highlight that. And so we oppose work authorization. We have folks who are opposing the ability for people, who are seeking a lawful process, to support themselves, who don't want to be a strain on public systems. And we've got folks who want to block people from being able to follow the same American dream that almost every person here, their family comes from, folks coming here with nothing but the shirt on their back and getting a job and supporting a family.
We've got folks who want to deny that. On the federal level, we have folks who oppose comprehensive immigration reform. We're cutting funding not just to our national park services, but to our overall supportive services. We're on the brink of a shutdown right now so that none of these things can get processed in the first place. And then while we're in this process of opposing work authorizations, I think it's important to note that these systems are being overwhelmed in the first place because of large parts of contributions to solve this problem.
If we are serious about addressing this issue, we need to also make sure that we're opening and allowing people to be documented. And I can't, for the life of me, understand why there is such partisan opposition to doing this. I mean, truly. And in addition to that, we also need to be assessing the foreign policy decisions that we are making that are driving people to our southern border in the first place. There is so much rhetoric out here blaming other countries and their dysfunctions for why people are coming to the United States when we are engaging in interventionist policy abroad and when our sanctions in Latin America are part of the picture here.
So we're either going to agree to agree to those things and take on the responsibility of the consequences, or we're going to reassess our policy. It is outrageous to be using the city of New York, where, by the way, these asylum-seekers, their kids are enrolling in school, those who can seek work are doing it right away. That by the way, they're trying to fill labor needs that we have long had as a city and state.
We should be paving the pathways to make this as easy as possible. And perhaps we wouldn't need and perhaps there wouldn't be a Floyd Bennett Field situation if people were actually supporting a smooth system here.
No proposed alternative. No solutions here. No ideas here. But Democrats, we're authorizing 500,000 work permits so people can get on their feet and support themselves. Democrats, we're proposing comprehensive immigration reform. Democrats, we're talking about saying, ‘Let's reassess our foreign policies so that people aren't fleeing and, you know, making sure that we aren't participating in the destabilization of what's happening abroad.’ And all I'm hearing right now is that we're not being met in the middle. No support, no path to citizenship, no identified alternatives. Just grievances.
We need to get it together and make sure that we're getting on the right page. And if the ideas being presented here in this committee are being disagreed with, I'd like to see some actual functional alternatives that center and preserve the dignity of both people who are coming here to fulfill an American dream and the American citizens here who want to support them.
Tell President Biden and HHS to expand health care coverage for DACA recipients.